The NBA draft is coming up, and the top prospects are dominating headlines. The Process is working in Philadelphia, The Big Baller Brand is on their way to Los Angeles and Boston will have its pick of franchise changing talent. While the top of the draft is where teams find their cornerstones, there are players further down that will still be able to help teams. These are ten underrated prospects who could be valuable in the right system. They may not be lottery picks, but they can still be a major boost to any team that selects them. The bottom parts of NBA drafts are not famous for their bevy of talent, but this year’s prospects can provide value 1-60. Here are ten underrated or late-round prospects that teams should be looking at. Just a disclaimer; these are players I watched and researched. There may be some underrated Turkish point guard with an eight-foot wingspan, but I don’t know anything about him and I haven’t watched him play, so he is not in this article.
10. Nigel Hayes, PF, Wisconsin
Who he is: A fan favorite. Hayes was a four-year contributor for a Badgers team that made the Sweet Sixteen each year he was on the team. His three-point and free-throw shooting are below average, but he is a good post player with solid athleticism. He can defend 1-4 and he would be a mature influence and solid role player for any team that picks him up.
Why is he considered underrated?: He never quite lived up to his high expectations (he was Big-Ten preseason player of the year) at Wisconsin, and his shooting never developed to an NBA level. Still, his off the court intangibles and post ability should carve him out a spot on an NBA roster.
Where he fits: A team with a socially minded coach like the Spurs or Warriors would enjoy a presence like Hayes around. His toughness could also fit well with a team like Memphis or in Milwaukee. (Side note…Somebody draft Bronson Koenig)
9. Harry Giles, PF, Duke
Who he is: Giles was the top recruit in 2016 despite tearing his ACL twice in high school. Giles missed the first few games of the season, and never really got into any sort of groove. That being said, the potential is still there and he could be a mid-round steal.
Why is he considered underrated?: Mr. Giles here has some problems with his knees. These injuries have wrecked his athleticism and taken away much of what made him a great player. Still, as Giles recovers he should rediscover some of his talents and confidence. If he does he could be one of the best players to come out of this draft.
Where he fits: A team that is willing to take risks. The Miami Heat have stable owners, a stable front office, and a stable coach. Giles could be a prospect for a team like the Heat that doesn’t love to build through the draft. He also could be an option for the Nets or Magic later in the first round. These teams need to buy low and hope Giles recovers from his injuries.
8. Thomas Bryant, C, Indiana
Who he is: Bryant deferred his draft potential last year to return for his sophomore season at Indiana. While his jump shooting improved, Indiana did not and neither did his draft stock. His decision to take more threes does make him more versatile going forward.
Why is he considered underrated?: Bryant played for a disappointing Indiana team and he never really put up huge numbers. That being said, his game still took big steps forward. He developed a shot from the perimeter and even started some fast breaks by bringing the ball up the court himself. As long as he becomes more versatile without developing a total guard’s mindset, Bryant could be a solid big man in the new NBA.
Where he fits: The Nets could take a flier to try and replace Brook Lopez, or the Spurs can try to get younger in the frontcourt. The Raptors, Blazers or Jazz could all be options at the end of the first round.
7. Sindarius Thornwell, SF, South Carolina
Who he is: The man with one of the cooler names in the NCAA tournament, Thornwell became a household name with his stellar two-way play in the NCAA tournament. He is a capable offensive player but will contribute mostly on the defensive end.
Why is he considered underrated?: Thornwell is not an elite talent but developed during his time at South Carolina. He showed off on a national stage during the tournament and really helped his draft stock. He may not have climbed into the first round but should still be able to contribute as a second round pick.
Where he fits: Any contender that needs to guard the Warriors could use Thornwell. The Blazers, the Celtics, the Spurs and others could look at Thornwell at the end of the first or in the mid-second round.
6. Frank Mason III, PG, Kansas
Who he is: Mason was the Naismith player of the year and cemented his legacy as a college star. In a year flush with top rated freshman, Mason was the country’s best player and consistently excellent the whole season.
Why is considered underrated?: He does not have great size and he is just an average shooter. He has a future as a backup guard or defensive stud if he can improve on that end. He finishes well and is a good passer, so teams in the early to mid-second round should take a flier.
Where he fits: The Jazz, the Spurs, the Pacers and the Thunder are all in the market for a backup point guard, and Mason will come cheaper and with more ability than most on the open market.
5. Justin Jackson, SF, North Carolina
Who he is: Jackson was a three-year contributor for the Tar Heels and a prime example of improving over his years in college. This past season he led UNC to a national championship while also winning ACC player of the year. He proved his ability to catch and shoot, score off the dribble and be a go-to scorer down the stretch.
Why is he considered underrated?: Jackson is not an elite athlete and age is not working in his favor. Experience does not carry the same value as it used to, and that is one of Jackson’s best assets. His shooting and ability to create his own shot should still carry plenty of value. He was the leader of the UNC Championship team, and always handled his business in a solid and unassuming manner.
Where he fits: Any team that needs wing scoring. The Pacers may be losing some very soon, the Bucks need some, the Heat need some, the Hornets could use as well as the Bulls and Magic. Toward the end of the lottery and shortly thereafter, look for Jackson’s name to be called.
4. Josh Hart, SG, Villanova
Who he is: An upperclassman with a ton of big-game experience and solid play throughout his time in college. He is an all around player who is good at everything he does. He may not have elite level athleticism, but his toughness makes up for it.
Why is he considered underrated?: Similar to Jackson, his best ability is his experience. Hart has won a national championship and been a major contributor on elite teams. He likely will never be the star of a team, but he can provide solid minutes off the bench and effort on both ends of the floor.
Where he fits: He would work best if he is not called upon to play heavy minutes right away, but on a contender, Hart could be a good role player.
3. Caleb Swanigan, PF, Purdue
Who he is: The Big Ten player of the year, Swanigan is a double-double machine who can rebind at an elite level. He is not the most athletic forward, but he extended his range last year and dominated on the glass. He should be able to contribute immediately with an NBA-ready body.
Why is he considered underrated?: He does not run very fast or jump very high, and in today’s NBA, those things are highly desired. If Swanigan was a pro 15 years ago he could be a lottery pick. He could be a good find in the late-first round and be an asset to a team that needs some toughness and elite rebounding. Think Tristan Thompson that doesn’t jump as high but has more touch around the rim.
Where he fits: The Pacers, the Hawks, the Blazers, the Hornets and the Spurs could all take a look at the end of the first round. He will immediately add to frontcourt depth for any team that selects him.
2. Jayson Tatum, SF, Duke
Who he is: A consensus top-5 pick and potentially the best player in this draft. He can score from anywhere on the floor, has an NBA-ready body and should contribute immediately.
Why is considered underrated?: It’s hard for such a talented prospect to be underrated, but for some reason, Tatum is. He is arguably the best scorer in this draft, and for a league centered around scoring, that should be a priority. He played high-pressure games all season for Duke and is ready to contribute right away. He is not criminally underrated, but for arguably the best player in the draft to potentially fall all the way to number six or seven would be silly.
Where he fits: The Suns should be thrilled if the Celtics pass on him, and they should be eager to grab him at four. The Magic could obviously use some help, but Tatum may not be as effective as a primary scorer. On a team like the Suns (or the Timberwolves,) Tatum can be the second option and should thrive.
1. Malik Monk, SG, Kentucky
Who he is: Another top-10 talent, Monk was a deadly shooter in his only year at Kentucky and put up some huge games in big moments. He shot almost 40 percent from three and was nearly a 50-40-80 player. His shooting should translate well and he can score from anywhere.
Why is he underrated?: Monk can go cold in some games and disappear as a primary shooting option. He is also not a primary ball handler and maybe a bit undersized for the two-guard spot. Teams at the top feel like he might be a reach, and teams toward the end of the top-10 may not need him. Still, it’s a make or miss league, and guys who make it at this rate should be picked higher than the end of the lottery (if he falls that far).
Where he fits: Everybody could use some shooting. If the Sixers can trade back into the top-10 he would fit perfectly there. The Magic could also use some scoring.